Saturday, 23 April 2016


When Jules Verne wrote his story of A Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, not one in Hamilton who read that bit of fiction ever dreamed that there could be such a thing as a boat sailing for miles underneath the sea and popping up at stated times to give the crew a breath of fresh air. The unscientific world read the story and pronounced it fishy. But Jules Verne had foundation for his story, and he worked up the idea for all that it was worth. More than four centuries ago, history tells us, a mechanical genius conceived the idea of the first submarine boat. It was a rowboat propelled by twelve lusty oarsmen, but when the crucial test came that the boat was to dive underneath a sailing vessel, it was not equal to the task. Another attempt was made in the same century, but it, too, proved a failure. However, once the ingenuity of man is challenged, there is always some studious inventor to follow up the idea, and a later genius perfects the dream of centuries. This surely has been the outcome of the deadly submarine. The dream of the inventor of four centuries ago has had its full development in the terrible war that has been raging for nearly seven months. Burton J. Hendrik, a writer in McClure’s Magazine, has given much study to tracing up the history of the submarine. The control of the sea has been the pre-eminent fact in English history. Its navy protected its commerce, hence there was but little necessity of a large standing army. The British nation has never suffered defeat except in the little family quarrel that was the outcome of the great waste of tea in the Boston Harbor. Many times in the last century, Great Britain has faced the possibility of continental wars, but its fleet has always been its safeguard against foreign invasion. Untold millions have been spent in keeping up its navy, and the bravery of its blue jackets, and natural skill in naval warfare, have made it pre-eminent. Great Britain might at one time have had some control of the submarine to add to its naval strength, but the idea was too chimerical for her war lords to discuss.


          The dream of four centuries ago was worked out by a freshman in Yale college during the American revolution. All through his college days, from 1771 to 1775, David Bushnell worked to make a vessel that would sail under water. The first real test of the submarine was during the American civil war, when a United States gunboat, the Housatanic, was sunk by a Confederate submarine boat in Charleston harbor, but was herself sunk with her crew. In principle, the submarine was the same as it is today. The British frigates that were stationed outside of New York and other American harbors during the revolution gave inspiration to David Bushnell’s invention of the submarine, although it did not come into use at that time. The professors in the Yale college ridiculed the idea that gunpowder could be exploded under water, but Bushnell proved to the learned scholars that they might know all about the ancient and modern languages while there were principles in science that they could be taught lessons in, by taking them out into New Haven harbor and producing an explosion of gunpowder under water. Bushnell had already constructed a vessel that could sail under water. It was in shape like a turtle, operated by a wooden propeller. This antedated the invention of the steamboat by several years. Early in the last century, the Molsons built the first steamboat in Montreal that plied on the St. Lawrence river down to Quebec. Bushnell’s Turtle, for that was the name he gave his first submarine, only made a maximum speed of about two miles an hour. It was illuminated by foxfire wood, which gave a phosphorescent light. It had an air-chamber in which the navigator could exist for a brief half hour. When the revolutionary war began the British flagship, the Eagle, then lying off Staten Island, was selected as the first victim of Bushnell’s submarine. Bushnell had not the physical strength to navigate the Turtle himself, and a man named Lee was chosen to destroy the Eagle. Not understanding the mechanism of the Turtle, Lee’s attempt to navigate it proved a failure. He managed to reach the Eagle in the submerged Turtle, but failed in his effort to attach the torpedo with the time-clock to the hull of the Eagle. The torpedo floated a short distance from the Eagle and exploded on time, but not close enough to do any damage to the British vessel. This failure discouraged Bushnell, and in his disappointment, he vanished from his home in Connecticut and died some years later in Georgia.


          A quarter of a century later, Napoleon was engaged in almost identically the same enterprise as the Kaiser is attempting today. In the midst of his perplexities he received a letter which read : “The sea which separates you from your enemy gives him an immense advantage over you. I have it in my power to cause this obstacle which protects him to disappear.” This letter was written by Robert Fulton, one of the early inventors of the steamboat. Fulton had developed Bushnell’s invention of the submarine, and his work to Napoleon to deprive Britain of her great naval power. Napoleon appointed a commission to investigate Fulton’s plans, and the result was the French admiralty placed a vessel at Fulton’s disposal to experiment on, and he blew the vessel into a thousand pieces with his submarine. By this time, Great Britain began to appreciate the work of Fulton, and he was invited to England. “If your boat is introduced into practice,” said Pitt, “it will annihilate all military marines.” AS an experiment, Fulton entered Deal Harbor  in his submarine and blew up a Danish brig of two hundred tons. It was in this same harbor a few weeks ago, that a German submarine destroyed a British torpedo boat. The British government offered Fulton a large sum of money to pigeonhole his invention, which he declined to accept. Both England and France had refused to adopt Fulton’s invention, so he returned to his home in New York and spent all his energies in perfecting his steam boat.


          The submarine is the most deadly weapon ever introduced into naval warfare, because there is no defense against it. “There is nothing you can send against, not even itself,” said John P. Holland, another inventor in the line of submarines. “Submarine cannot fight submarine,” said Holland. Germany cannot equal Great Britain in naval warfare, so it has judiciously kept its warships out of the fight. Instead, it has attacked the battleships and the merchant marine of Great Britain with the terrible submarine. The man chiefly responsible for the modern development of the submarine was John P. Holland, born in Ireland in 1841. He was a conspicuous leader in the Fenian order and hated England with all the vigor of his Irish ancestry. He built a submarine in New Haven, Connecticut, and christened it the Fenian Ram. Fifty thousand dollars in pennies, dimes and dollars were contributed by the Irish and with this fund, Holland built the Fenian Ram so as to have it ready should the United States and Great Britain get into war with each other. Holland died a few months ago, shortly after the beginning of the present war. The story of the deadly work of the submarine is being told in war news published from day to day. The naval armament of no nation can overcome it.


          There is nothing new under the sun.  The more on dips into the history of the submarine boat the truth of the adage of nothing new under the sun becomes a greater reality. Till the present war but little was heard of this great sea diver, and few could realize that it was possible that such a thing could be. Since writing the above, we have had access to an encyclopedia that takes us before the Christian era. The first submarine was a diving bell, and its construction dates back over two thousand years. The next record we have dates in the year 1590, when William Brown, an Englishman, is said to have built a submarine. In 1824, Cornelius Van Drabbel designed an improvement to the Englishman’s boat and exhibited the plans to King James II. During the next hundred years several attempts were made in the direction of undersea  navigation, but none worthy of notice. It was not till David Bushnell’s time, 1771 to 1775, during his college days that any progress was made, and the submarine in use today, with all its destruction power was the result of his genius. Robert Fulton, one of the early inventors of the steamboat, improved somewhat on Bushnell’s plans, and he was followed by John P. Holland, an Irishman. Coming down to modern times, during the civil war in the United States, the Confederate government built several submarines, and while they sank one Federal gunboat, the submarine and all its crew went to the bottom of Charleston harbor. There are two classes, submarines and submersibles.


          Now that Hamilton is to have a new hospital, it may be interesting to go back to earlier days and look at the crude provision made for the care of the sick. Back in the first half of the last century – in the year 1847 – to care for the afflicted Irish emigrants, who were forwarded from Quebec and Montreal to western towns along Lake Ontario, Hamilton built a row of sheds down on the bay front, which were known as the fever hospital. The emigrants came to Canada and the United States by the thousands, being starved out of their native land by the failure of food products, especially the potato. As a boy, the Muser remembers the long rows of hospital sheds along the banks of the Lachine canal, in Montreal, with the hundreds of patients stricken with the ship fever. Coffins were piled up alongside the hospital sheds and every afternoon, the wail of the living over the death of loved ones was heart-rending. The same condition existed all along the lake front from east to west, and down at the bay was no exception. Hamilton then was in its young cityhood, for in that year, it became incorporated. About the same time, a hospital was built at the head of Cherry street, on the mountain side. It was a two-story frame building, with only limited accommodations for patients. Only the homeless ones were provided for, the sick being generally cared for in their own homes. It was a forlorn-looking place, but for those days answered the purpose. A new home for the sick was provided about 1853, when a large brick building at the foot of John street, facing the bay front, was purchased for a hospital. It was originally built by Nathaniel Hughson for a hotel, and was well-patronized till about the middle of the ‘40’s when travelers visiting the city on business found it inconvenient, and came uptown to the hotels. The building was then sold to the government, and in turn was used as a barracks for the regiments of the regular army stationed here, and then as a custom-house. Finally, it came into the ownership of the city and was converted into a hospital; and an excellent location it was , with its fine view of the bay, with its wharves lined with shipping. The building was three stories in height, and a roomy gallery on each story facing the bay front. In time, as the city grew, larger accommodations were necessary and the Barton street hospital was built. Now that too is too small, and the beautiful site on the mountain top has been selected for a two-million dollar building. No finer selection could have been made, and in time there will be a street railway along the mountain front.


The city of Hamilton finds it necessary to increase the hospital accommodation. There are two hospitals, one the public hospital under the control of an independent board of governors appointed by the city council, and the other under the management of the Roman Catholic church. The public hospital has three departments – one called the free wards, one the semi-private wards and one the private wards.

The hospital staff numbers one medical superintendent, four lady supervisors, one hundred nurses. The nurses’ salaries range : six dollars per week for the first year, seven dollars for the second year, and ten dollars for the third year and thereafter. The hospital is under bthe management of five governors, selected for a term of five years each, one retiring annually, and the mayor and one member of the board of control. The governors serve without salaries, and are appointed from among the best businessmen in the city.

The expenses of the hospital for the year 1914 were $158,500, provide for by a charge of from ten to fifteen dollars for patients in the private wards, four dollars and ninety cents in the semi-private wards, and a government grant of twenty cents per day for the private and semi-private. This amount is paid by the government for a period of four months. After that time, if the patient still continues in the hospital, the grant is dropped to seven cents per day. The government grant for the last half of the year 1914 was $12,500. From the government grant and the fees paid by the private and semi-private patients, the income was $69,000. Added to this, the amount appropriated from the general tax fund of the city was $90,000, making a grant total of $158,500. The cost per diem for each patient averages $1.57.

The present hospital was built when the population of the city was about thirty thousand, and has been added to from time to time to accommodate patients as the population increased, which is now over one hundred thousand. Hamilton is a manufacturing city, and accident patients from the factories and the increasing number of poor families make heavy demands on hospital accommodation.

It has now been determined by the city and the board of governors to begin at once the erection of a new hospital for which two million dollars has been appropriated, to be spent from time to time as the buildings progress. The site selected is about seven acres on the top of the mountain for ornamental grounds and building purposes, and it has been pronounced by two celebrated medical men in the United States, who are experts in hospital construction, as the finest in America. The buildings are to be erected on the brow of the mountain, overlooking the city, with a perspective extending for miles up and down the valet, with the bay and Lake Ontario in the foreground. The plans of the building have been passed on by the two United States medical experts, and after repeated examination and alteration in the details have been declared next to perfect.

Plans and specifications are being prepared for the first section of the new hospital, to cost $150,000. Tenders are to be advertised for, and the work of construction is to begin as soon as possible. The building will be four stories, constructed of reinforced concrete, and without basement, the New York medical experts having decided against basements in hospital buildings. The building will provide accommodation for sixty patients and the necessary staff. When the entire building is completed, it will provide accommodations for over five hundred patients.

T. H. Pratt is chairman of the board of governors; Stewart and Witton are the local architects.


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